In his column at the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson publishes a letter from a reader that pointedly identifies everything that Mr. Samuelson’s column has not:
I am 54. My background includes a Master’s degree in history and a Certificate in Teaching English as a second language (ESL). I have worked as a journalist and was an ESL instructor for five years at a local college before my job was downsized in 2014 due to budget cuts. Since then, I have been unable to find full-time work, even though I have been diligently networking and applying for jobs. I currently write a monthly business column for The Spartanburg Herald-Journal (for free) about employment issues and also write contracts to try to stay solvent.
Although I agree that our economic expectations were raised during the 1990s’ boom, I don’t think it is a false expectation for Americans to want good-paying, full-time jobs. Unfortunately, many of the 14 million jobs created (since the employment low-point), which you mention in your column, are low-wage, part-time service jobs which are not what people need in order to support themselves and their families. In Spartanburg, very few white-collar jobs have been created. Instead, the new jobs are in fast-food restaurants and distribution centers, which are popping up everywhere due to our low cost of land.
Every day, I read articles from national newspapers, and I am continually dismayed and angered by journalists that accept without question the government statistics of glowing successes in job creation. Whatever happened to investigative journalism? Why aren’t reporters looking beyond the statistics to the thousands of real people still suffering from long-term unemployment?
which are that
- GDP growth doesn’t reflect the reality of the lives of ordinary people and that will remain true as long as the lion’s share of income growth is captured by, well, the lions.
- The decreasing rate of unemployment (to whatever extent it’s real at all) has come through an increase in the number of minimum wage jobs in hospitality and retail rather than an increase in white collar or blue collar jobs that carry decent pay and benefits.
His feeble retort:
It’s hard not to be moved. But it’s also worth remembering that the employment situation has improved.
He still doesn’t get it.
Note the key points of Ms. Lang, the reader’s, letter. Not only does she have a college degree, she has a post-graduate degree. Neither qualify her for any of the jobs being created other than minimum wage jobs or voluntarism. The jobs created? Low wage jobs.
I’ve pointed that out before. When I was in high school and college (and dinosaurs ruled the earth), any student who wanted one could get a part-time job. Nowadays that’s impossible because adults are trying to support themselves and their families doing the jobs that young people used to perform on a part-time basis while still being supported wholly or in part by their parents.
Raising the minimum wage will only solve that problem if the minimum wage doesn’t reflect the demand for minimum wage labor. If it does it will result in fewer minimum wage jobs, a perverse outcome. More education won’t solve the problem if most of the jobs being created pay minimum wage.
What, then, is to be done? I think the solutions are to suspend the importation of workers from other countries, reducing the supply of low wage workers and the competition for jobs that pay higher wages, and to focus less attention on the top .1% of income earners and a lot more on the balance of the top decile of income earners. Many of those earners work in sectors that are highly regulated and their wages are a consequence of rent-seeking. If you can’t raise the bridge, lower the water.